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Guide to Researching in Florida's Colonial Papers: Florida's Colonial Period

By Jason Zappulla and James Cusick



Florida's colonial era began with the 1513 voyage of Juan Ponce de León and his subsequent unsuccessful effort to place a colony in southwest Florida in 1521. Although the 1500s saw the arrival of numerous other Spanish expeditions -- those of Panfilo de Narvaez in 1527, Hernan de Soto in 1539, along with Tristan de Luna's settlement at Pensacola in 1559 -- no permanent colonial presence was established until 1565 with the foundation of St. Augustine by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. Florida subsequently became part of the Spanish empire, maintaining close contacts with Mexico and the Spanish Carribean.

The British took control of Florida following the end of the Seven Years' War (the French and Indian War in North America). However, British rule was brief (1763-1784).  By the peace negotiations that ended the American Revolution in 1783, Spain regained its Florida possessions. Florida was once again a Spanish holding until 1821, when the Adams-Onis Treaty ceded Florida to the United States.



Flag of Castile and Leon

1513: Initial Exploration

Flag of Habsburg Spain

1521-1763: Exploration, Conquest, and First Spanish Period

Flag of Great Britain

1763-1784: British Period

Flag of Bourbon Spain

1784-1821: Second Spanish Period

NEW: Online Version of the East Florida Papers

Images of Florida's Colonial Period

Casta Painting (Mexico)

Casta painting (Mexico, 18th century).  One in a series of images showing colonial people of different classes and backgrounds.

Map of St. Augustine

A destructive but unsuccessful attack on St. Augustine by forces under George Oglethope in 1740 captivated popular imagination.  This Thomas Silver illustration shows Oglethorpe's bombardment of the city from batteries on nearby Anastasia Island.

God's Protecting Providence

In an early tale of shipwreck on the Florida Coast, Jonathan Dickinson published the travails of the survivors of the Reformation, run aground near Jobe Sound in 1696.

Sir Francis Drake Attack

Detail from Baptista Boazio's depiction of Sir Francis Drake's raid on Saint Augustine on May 28 and 29, 1586.

Fort San Nicolas

Built to help control river traffic on the St. Johns River, Fort San Nicolas (1813) was one of the late colonial forts garrisoned by black troops out of Spain's Caribbean forces. (East Florida Papers, Library of Congress).

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